WARMUP: Child's Pose & Knees to Chest to Warm Up the Lower Back
Prior to starting the 8 different stretches and exercises, it’s best to warm up with some simple static stretches. Start by taking a gentle Childs pose for 5 breaths.
Follow that up by tucking your knees into your knees into your chest for 5 breaths.
1. Cat/Cow Exercise to Loosen the Lower Back
After your warm up, you’re now ready to start a gentle exercise that is great for the entire back and neck. Start on all 4’s (your hands and knees) on a yoga mat or softer surface. On an inhale, drop your belly toward the floor, creating an arch in your lower back, while simultaneously looking slightly upward. On an exhale, arch your middle-back like a cat, looking downward.
Be mindful to follow your breath and even close your eyes (this is good for alleviating stress)! Repeat for 10 slow breaths.
2. Bridges To Strengthen The Lower Back
Bridges are an excellent exercise to strengthen the glutes and simultaneously place the lower back into healthy extension, helping relieve sciatic symptoms and lower back pain.
Start by lying on your back. Bend your knees with your feet flat on the floor, hip width distance apart. Ensure that you can touch the back of your heels with your fingertips. Placing your hands flat on the floor beside your body, raise your hips up toward the sky, holding for 3-5 breaths. Lower your hips down. Repeat 5-10 times.
You can interlace your hands under your back while your hips are in the air, if that feels comfortable for you. Ensure that your knees don’t splay outward.
3. Lateral Bend to Stretch the Lower Back
This can be performed seated or standing, whichever is more comfortable for you. If you place a pillow underneath your sit bones, that tends to help for comfort as well.
Inhale both arms overhead and then drop your right hand to the floor, while extending your left arm overhead, toward the right. Hold for 5 breaths and then switch sides.
4. Lying Figure 4 To Stretch The Glute Muscles
This stretch may be difficult to do if your muscles are really tight, and the other option (seated cross stretch) thats listed below may be a better option initially. Lying on the floor, cross the left leg over the right, then reach behind your right thigh and pull your legs toward your chest.
DO NOT lift your head off the ground and, if you cannot perform the stretch without lifting your head, then put a pillow underneath your neck or perform the stretch below until you’re flexible enough to do this one.
Hold for 5-10 breaths and switch sides. As you become more flexible, you can wrap your hands around the front of your shin instead of your thigh.
5. Seated Cross Stretch to Relax the Glute Muscles
This is my FAVORITE stretch of them all, because it’s super simple and easy to do at your desk. Cross your right leg over the left and sit up straight. Hinging from the hips, begin leaning forward until you feel a pull in the left glute/leg. Hold there for 5-10 breaths, then switch sides.
Be sure NOT to round your middle back during this stretch. The best way to prevent rounding is by looking at something a few feet in front of you, instead of looking down.
6. Low Lunge To Stretch The Hip Flexors
The hip flexors can become so tight with all the sitting we do in our daily lives, and the lunging stretch is the best way to open them up. Step your left leg forward while dropping your right knee on the ground. You should feel a stretching in the front of your right thigh.
You can lean forward a bit to intensify the stretch and maybe even raise your arms overhead. The most advanced of the movement would be to lift your back leg (in this photo the right leg) off the floor. Hold for 5 breaths and switch sides.
7. Supported Hamstring Leg Stretch
This hamstring stretch is super simple, but can be difficult if your hamstrings are really tight. Place your right leg on a chair and, hinging from the hips without rounding your back, lean forward toward your leg.
If it’s comfortable, flex your toes back toward your face to add more of a stretch on the sciatic nerve and hamstrings. Hold for 5-10 breaths and then switch sides.
8. Prone Press Ups & Upward Facing Dog To Stretch & Strengthen The Lower Back
Deep extension, like the one pictured above, can be difficult and hard on a the lower back, so tread lightly and go easily with this one initially.
Start by lying on your stomach with your hands underneath your shoulders. Press up half way (pictured above), with your elbows bent and your hips still touching the ground. Hold for 5 breaths and release. Repeat 5-10 times.
Once this is comfortable, you can go into full upward facing dog by straightening the arms and taking the hips slightly off the mat.
BONUS: Cross Crawl Exercise To Strengthen Back Muscles
The cross crawl exercise is awesome for lower back strengthening, improving balance and brain function. Start on the floor (use a mat or a towel) on all 4’s.
While inhaling, extend your left arm out in front of you and at the same time, straighten your right leg back behind you. Hold this for 3-5 breaths.
Alternatively, with each exhale, draw your left elbow to meet your right knee, then extend back out on the inhale. Repeat 3-5 times on each side.
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